Help me prepare for a young houseguest who might be a bedwetter.
May 3, 2010 3:04 PM   Subscribe

Help me be an awesome aunt: how can I prepare for a young houseguest who might be a bedwetter?

My five year old niece, Meng*, is coming to stay with me for a week later this month. (It's her first trip away from home by herself; she's very excited.)

Meng has been a bedwetter in the recent past, and though it's been a few months since the last time, my sister wanted to warn me in case being in someone else's house might trigger the bedwetting again. In their house, they've been using vinyl sheets, but they stopped when it seemed Meng had stopped wetting the bed.

She is so proud of not having to have the vinyl sheets anymore—what can I use instead to protect the full-size mattress she'll be sleeping on that won't feel like vinyl, and that she won't notice if she gets through the whole trip without an accident?

I'd prefer something reusable (presumably her younger brothers will one day come to visit, too) that can go under a fitted sheet.

(Additionally, any advice about what to say if an accident does happen would also be appreciated. I've talked to my sister about it, and she said Meng's been pretty unfazed about these things, but I want to have a plan to make sure I'm unfazed.)

Any followup queries can go to (Anon because other future houseguests read AskMe, and I'd rather they didn't have to think about bedwetting accidents when they come stay in the guest bed regardless of whether any occur or not.)

*her middle name
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (24 answers total)
Reusable cloth mattress pads are small enough to position over where the bed-wetting parts of the body hit the mattress and don't have the tale-tell crunchy sound of vinyl sheets but hold up to 800cc of fluid. Just throw over the normal mattress pad and under the fitted sheet and Meng will be none the wiser to you being a preventative aunt.
posted by banannafish at 3:07 PM on May 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

I would get a vinyl mattress cover plus a cotton one to go on top. Vinyl one makes sure that the actual mattress doesn't get wet (would be hard to clean). The cotton one is absorbent (so you don't have a pool of urine to deal with), machine washable and softens the feel so guests don't notice the vinyl one underneath. Use regular sheets, just make sure the blanket, comforter, bedspread etc are also machine washable if they are going to be on the bed at night. Also, have a complete change of bedding in an easy to find location. If she has an accident, just strip the bedding, throw it in the washing machine and remake the bed. She can help you with the process. Just talk about the task at hand in a very matter-of-fact way. "Looks like we need to change the sheets. Could you untuck that corner over there? These (new) sheets have green stripes because green matches the flowers on the wallpaper..."
posted by metahawk at 3:15 PM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Just get some incontinence pads and put them under the sheet, about four might be a good idea because kids sometimes roll around a lot in their sleep. If you want to be extra stealthy, put an inexpensive mattress pad over them too.

If they are needed, she will be as happy, or happier, than you that they were there, and just don't make a big deal out of it. These things happen. If she will let her help to strip the bed, but if she is too embarrassed, don't make a thing out of it (do the best you can to hum while you do the job.) Worrying over the accidents, won't help her get passed them.
posted by Some1 at 3:15 PM on May 3, 2010

A friend solved a similar situation by putting the visiting child on an air mattress. My friend turned it into an indoor camping experience and the kid loved it.
posted by mareli at 3:15 PM on May 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Exactly what I was going to say. As far as how to handle it if it say that Meng acts unfazed by it. She may be, or that may just be a brave front. It is important that you neither treat it like it is a big deal nor patronize. I don't think you would, of course, but just helping reinforce that it is important that you remain matter-of-fact. She isn't doing it for attention, and therefore would probably appreciate it if she did not receive attention for it.
posted by beelzbubba at 3:15 PM on May 3, 2010

(Uh my "exactly" was going to link to banannafish's answer.)
posted by beelzbubba at 3:17 PM on May 3, 2010

They make mattress protectors that go under the regular sheet that, while probably not suitable for prolonged bedwetting, would probably work for an accident or two. You can't tell they're there at all. I've got one on my bed to prevent monthly lady-type stains on the mattress. Walmart and Target both sell them.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:21 PM on May 3, 2010

Put a pad under a thick comfy mattress cover. If she does wet, act like nothing really happened. If she is concerned, tell her it is no big deal. And then don't talk about it unless she wants to. My nephew was a bed wetter when he was this age. It is common and nothing to be embarrassed about. When my nephew asked me what I thought about his bed wetting, I told him it was not a big deal, he would grow out of it, and it was very common at his age. He looked like the weight of the world was lifted from his shoulders.
posted by fifilaru at 3:30 PM on May 3, 2010

You could put a towel between the sheets and the mattress, though that won't catch all of a big accident. Personally, I'd just put a vinyl or rubber sheet on and not make a big deal of it. If your visitor thinks she'd prefer it otherwise, suggest that you take it off on day two or three, once she's settled in.

Also, I'd recommend limiting fluid intake in the hours before bedtime, and also reading a story or something to help with the transition to a new sleeping place, and making sure the kid has time to go to the bathroom before sleep (they don't have to pee, but they do have to try).

Finally, the first morning or two, I'd check in on the guest early. In my experience, kids who have accidents often do so just before they're ready to wake up, so a morning visit might help too.

If anything does happen, it's no big deal. Have them help you strip the bed, if you want. That's one way of acknowledging it as an "it happens, no big deal" event. Also have them shower and change into some comfy dry clothes. They'll know you don't mind and you're looking out for them.
posted by zippy at 3:42 PM on May 3, 2010

I'll second mattress protectors like this one for saving your mattress from kiddy bed wetting. Works a treat and she won't know it's there.
posted by merocet at 3:46 PM on May 3, 2010

They make waterproof mattress covers now that aren't just vinyl. They're a little more expensive, but worth it - it feels and looks just like any other mattress pad. I got mine at Target.*

*Haven't had the occasion to see how it holds up against a human bedwetter, but it's protected the mattress from feline accidents on numerous occasions.
posted by chez shoes at 4:17 PM on May 3, 2010

I have a mattress cover on my son's twin mattress that zips up and covers the whole thing. it's not quite cloth and not quite paper, but it's supposed to be allergy-whatever, and it is definitely water proof and machine washable. I got it at walmart for under $20. The nice thing is that there's no giveaway squeaky sound or rubbery feel to it, which I think would be important. I'd do that, throw a bath towel under the fitted sheet, and have another set of sheets ready to go. And maybe tell her that if she "can't sleep because it's a new place" that she can come in with you, or something; just give her a way to have a dry place to sleep without having to wake you up in the middle of the night to tell you she's had an accident.
posted by lemniskate at 4:27 PM on May 3, 2010

What about a sleep over outside in a tent? Big kid and adventure!
posted by TheBones at 5:14 PM on May 3, 2010

Your local pet store may have "housebreaking wee wee pads" (anyone remember the Petland Discounts commercials from the Tri-state area?), you could lay a few down under the sheets and I don't think she's notice any crinkling noise from them (unlike say, a vinyl sheet).
posted by holterbarbour at 5:34 PM on May 3, 2010

Check out medical supply stores, too, for a kind of rubber pad thing that is large enough for her to be moving around on the bed and still hitting the protector if she has an accident. Being rubber, rather than plastic or vinyl, it doesn't crackle when she's on it. Also, make sure she has an extra set of pyjamas (or two) while she's with you.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:34 PM on May 3, 2010

You're a nice aunt.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:35 PM on May 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

Get a luna mattress protector which is incredibly discreet and effective. You will not hear that god awful crinkly noise nor have fear of an accident seeping. It is used underneath the regular sheets and has a towel like top.

The thing is completely washable and hey, I would use it with adults because it is NOT just children who have liquid emissions (eeewwww). But really, you should consider having it for the hypoallergenic value as well.
posted by jadepearl at 6:15 PM on May 3, 2010

Don't serve foods with lots of artificial dyes. My urologist is not generally involved in natural treatments, but swears that dyes irritate the bladder and make bed-wetting worse.

Make sure you have clean sheets and a clean tshirt or other jammies in case of an accident.
posted by theora55 at 6:17 PM on May 3, 2010

You are an awesome aunt! And she is going to have the most awesome time with you!

One thing that nobody has mentioned is limiting her liquid intake before bed. You could ask her mom about timing (or a MeFi with kids might be able to tell you).

I agree with above comments about not making a big deal of it if it happens. The "no biggie, it happens to the best of us, that's what washing machines are for" attitude goes a long way.
posted by radioamy at 8:01 PM on May 3, 2010

Just to nth that what you want here is a waterproof mattress pad, to protect your mattress, instead of waterproof (vinyl) sheets, which she would be likely to notice. The pads generally have a thick layer of padding with a sandwiched layer of vinyl, and she would not be able to feel or hear it at all. The one linked by chez shoes looks like what I'm thinking of; they're common for crib mattresses and seem to me to be perfectly padded and comfy.

My guess is that if the bed is being wet on a daily basis, the parents can't be washing the mattress pad every time, and so use the vinyl sheets so that's all they have to change. But if this is just a few nights, the waterproof mattress pad with regular cotton sheets should be fine, just to protect your mattress. If you only buy one waterproof pad, and there's an accident in the middle of the night, you could just put down a couple towels and your regular mattress pad for her to go back to sleep; they don't usually have more than one incident in one night.

You're a nice auntie!
posted by palliser at 8:15 PM on May 3, 2010

Well, the basics obviously are pre-sleep potty visits and don't present a lot of liquids between dinner and bedtime. Requests for water can be filled with SMALL ("just your size!") cups.

On a non-mattress note:

This may not solve bedwetting, and I'm not sure where 5-year-olds stand on toilet inserts (those smaller seats you put on top of a toilet to reduce the risk of little butts falling in), but me and my 3-year old were both blown away when we were house guests recently and the gentleman had installed a child-accessible hook right next to the toilet with an appropriately sized toilet buddy. Maybe ask & find out if this would be helpful. It was sooooo much easier getting mine to be happy about pre-bed potty time with this lovely, self-service accessory right there & in reach.
posted by Ys at 9:35 PM on May 3, 2010

Plus a little step-stool, to assist in hoisting that butt up to the potty. Really a kind & thoughtful host.
posted by Ys at 9:41 PM on May 3, 2010

I wet the bed until I was 11 and I know how horrible that crinkling is. (I was far luckier than my cousin, who wet the bed until the same age, and whose mother forced her to wear diapers.) At age 5, make sure the hallway and the bathroom have nightlights, just to be sure she isn't afraid to get out of bed in the middle of the night, if she needs to go. (It may help, it may not, but why not try.)

Please don't do the "camp out" thing. It might embarrass or shame her if she suspects why you're doing it.

lemniskate: "And maybe tell her that if she "can't sleep because it's a new place" that she can come in with you, or something; just give her a way to have a dry place to sleep without having to wake you up in the middle of the night to tell you she's had an accident."

posted by IndigoRain at 12:59 AM on May 4, 2010

making sure the kid has time to go to the bathroom before sleep (they don't have to pee, but they do have to try)

I just want to offer a trick that worked for my very obstinate child. "I don't have to pee!" seemed like her favorite words. My response: "You're right, you don't have to pee. But you do have to sit on the potty and count to 10*."

We used this mostly for rest stops on long car trips, but it also works for that last trip before bedtime.

*10 was increased to 20 and then a hundred as she got older and better at counting, but still just as convinced that she didn't have to pee on command.
posted by CathyG at 9:46 AM on May 4, 2010

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